U.S. Senators Graham, Van Hollen call on Trump to sanction Turkey

U.S. Senators Republican Lindsey Graham and Democratic Chris Van Hollen on Monday wrote a letter to President Donald Trump’s administration calling for the imposition of sanctions on Turkey over the country’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, Reuters reported.

“Failure to [apply the law] is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout U.S. laws without consequence,” the senators’ letter addressed to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The U.S. House of Representatives already passed a sanctions bill in Oct. for Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made weapons system and the country launching a military incursion into northern Syria against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces.

“Existing law requires Trump to impose sanctions,” Van Hollen had said on Nov. 25, referring to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Turkey was also removed from the F-35 stealth fighter programme earlier this year because of the purchase, as the United States maintains that the S-400s were incompatible with NATO defences and posed a security risk.

Sen. Graham, who has been a staunch Trump supporter, has been one of the most vocal critics of the U.S. president for his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, saying that the move abandoned U.S. allies and paved the way for Turkey to launch its incursion.

Turkey entered Kurdish-held territories in northern Syria on Oct. 9, and its operation resulted in the displacement of at least 180,000 people and the death of some 200 civilians, according to UN data.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, Reuters said.

The letter began reminding Pompeo of his earlier remarks on how the purchase of S-400 air defense system triggers U.S. sanctions and "the law requires that there be sanctions." 

It ended calling on Pompeo to take a step to punish Turkey, ''The time for patience has long expired. It is time you applied the law. Failure to do so is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout U.S. laws without consequence.''

Letter Graham
Graham letter

Secretary Pompeo last month said Washington remained concerned over reports that Turkey was testing the S-400 system, and that the U.S. administration had made it clear to Turkey that it doesn’t want Turkey to put the S-400 into full operation.

Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on the same day that Moscow planned to sign a new contract to supply Turkey with more S-400s in 2020. 

“The date of the purchase of the second set of S-400s is just a technical question. I think it will happen before too long,” RIA news agency cited an unnamed security and foreign affairs official in the Turkish presidential administration as saying on Dec 2.